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The Electric Cat Wins EV Award

Infrastructure is expanding, understanding of the technology is increasing, and more brands are getting into the electric car field. Once renowned for sports cars and luxury cars, Jaguar is one of those companies. Their new i-Pace has recently been named Top Gear Magazine’s Electric Vehicle of the year, with the car racking up 19 awards in 2018.

It’s powered by a pair of bespoke electric engines that develop 400 horsepower and 696Nm of torque. 0-100 time is 4.5 seconds thanks to its all wheel drive and lightweight architecture. Getting the car underway with a drained battery takes just 40 minutes to an 80% charge level at a charging station, or, like virtually all buyers would do, a home charger will do that overnight. Expected range is 470 kilometres, enough to travel from Sydney to Canberra comfortably and take advantage of the charging stations there.

Available in Australia from $119,000 plus on roads, the i-Pace will also have the Touch Pro Duo infotainment system, capable of over-the-air software updates, and uses artificial intelligence to adapt to a driver’s personal preferences, ensuring driving and infotainment settings are matched to each individual using the car.

The legendary Ian Callum, Jaguar’s Director of Design, said: “We’re delighted to see the I-PACE named EV of the Year by BBC TopGear Magazine.

“As our first all-electric Jaguar we set out with a goal to make the I-PACE the world’s most desirable electric vehicle and recognition like this clearly shows that we are achieving it.”

Contact Jaguar for more details here.

 

Car Review: 2019 Peugeot 3008 Allure.

Peugeot’s 2018 3008, an award winning vehicle, is a second generation, extensively reworked version of the 3008 and facelifts released originally in 2008, with the second generation from 2016. We test the 2019 spec Peugeot 3008 Allure, priced at just under $41K plus on road costs.Power is supplied by a torquey 1.6L petrol engine, with 1400 revs seeing 240Nm being available thanks to a low pressure turbo. With 6000 rpm on the tacho, peak power is 121kW. Transmission is a six speed DCT. Peugeot quotes combined fuel economy as 7.0 & 7.3L per 100 kilometres, with city cycle driving as 9.8L & 10.1L per 100 kilometres. The two figures are quoted due to the Grip Control being off or on. Grip Control is a choice of drive modes for differing surfaces, and activated via a dial in the forward centre console.The actual driving experience varies from slightly frustrating to a lot of fun. Frustrating because of the delay in engagement from park to reverse to Drive, to grin inducing pull from low revs as the 3008 Allure sets sail. The changes are crisp, swift, smooth, in hte transmission when under way and manually changing does sharpen them further.

The Allure is a stylish machine, with the underpinnings a new platform called EMP2 that allows a superb ride and handling package. Steering, for example, is razor sharp in its responsiveness off centre, with a quarter turn or so having the nose swing round quickly. At speed the variable ratio steering lightens up and there’s less effort required to work.The ride on the 18 inch alloys, with 225/55 Continentals as the rubber, is beautifully tuned and balanced. There’s a suppleness that’s rare to find in anything other than mid to high end luxury cars, with an initial give that is followed by a progressive compression that stops before the bump-stops in all but the heaviest push over larger speed-bumps.

Out on the freeway it’s absorbent to a fault, dialling out irregularities and undulations as easily as it rides over the unsettled gravel and broken surfaces. It’s beyond superb and in its class a genuine leader. The passengers feel minimal movement and what there is comes through smoothly and calmly. Weighing in at just under 1400kg before fuel and cargo, the relatively lightweight 3008 moves easily from lane to lane when required, and does so without noticeable body roll.

The Peugeot 3008 range is front wheel drive biased, and for the most part isn’t noticeable as such. It’s really only, and typical of front wheel drive cars, when the loud pedal is punched hard that something resembling torque steer is noticeable.

Peugeot, being a French brand, isn’t adverse to a mix of style and quirks, with the latter good and not so. Certainly it’s stylish. The boxy design has enough lines, brightwork, and additions to the exterior to move it away from similarly styled machines. Although just the second level in the 3008 range, it comes with a powered tail gate and kick-activation. Inside it had a smartphone wireless charger. Gear selection is via a pilot style lever, with a button on the right to unlock and rock back and forth for Drive, Reverse, Neutral. Park is a simple push on the top, and Sports mode enables manual changing via the selector or paddles.It also features the i-Cockpit, a full colour 12.3 inch LCD screen housed in a binnacle above the sightline of the top of the steering wheel. It’s clear and easy on the eye, will change colour at the turn of the drive mode switch, but either the top or bottom of the screen gets blanked by the tiller. At odds with the charger pad and powered tail gate is no power for the cloth and leather seats. As comfortable pews as they are, to offer the two others but not electric seats is a strange decision. Another oddity is locating the bonnet opener in the left hand door’s forward meeting point, directly under the hinges. Bearing in mind a left hand drive market, hiding it away when the door is closed is one thing, elegance in design is another.

Ergonomics are otherwise very good, with controls for the aircon and radio (including DAB) found via plastic vertically oriented switches that act as starting points for the very well equipped touchscreen. The cockpit itself is defineably a setup oriented towards a driver and passenger separation, with the centre console gently rising and curling towards the right hand seat under the centre air-vents and eight inch touchscreen.The materials themselves, a mix of soft plastics and an almost light denim style material, on the console and dash are pleasant to look at and feel. A lovely extra touch is the soft glow of ambient lighting in the cabin, the centre console cup holders, around the binnacle, and in the doors. Sound and apps wise, the DAB audio punches well, and screen mirroring along with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay is standard.The exterior is sweetly shaped, especially for a relative smallish 4447mm length. The nose is a very bluff and upright chrome affair that sits over a broad horizontal set of four intakes and a alloy look chin. Intense LED driving lights eyebrow the normal headlights, with a signature “fin” motif in the design of the cluster.Our test car came clad in the lustrous metallic red paint with black roof, called Metallic Copper and Neon Black, highlighted by chrome strips. Tail lights are the familiar Peugeot claw. The lower extremities are black polycarbonate and the rear bumper gets a chrome strip running full width. As stated, a stylish package.

Finally, the Allure wraps up the good looks and lovely ride with a decent set of safety aids. Airbags all round, Autonomous Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Detection, Adaptive Cruise Control…not all of which are standard but can be optioned on the Allure.

Peugeot look after the 3008 with a five year warranty, a 12 year corrosion warranty, and a 24/7 roadside assistance package.

At The End of The Drive.
The Peugeot 3008 range is an award winner for the right reasons. It’s a superb handler, a very good drive, adds features at a good price, and brings the typical Gallic quirks. It’s roomy enough for four with no problems, has a good level of standard kit, is frugal enough in the real world and….well, it just does what it does at a high level all round. Check the 2019 Peugeot 3008 Allure out here.

Range Rover Evoques Emotion.

Jaguar Land Rover have released details of the forthcoming Range Rover Evoque. It will feature some groundbreaking technology including a world first that was first showcased in 2014.Called ClearSight Ground View, cameras in the front grille and on the door mirrors project a feed onto the touchscreen to show what is ahead of and underneath the front of the vehicle with a virtual 180-degree view.  An added extra to the new Evoque is also visual, with the smart rear view mirror changing to a HD screen at the touch of a button. A rear mounted camera offers a 50 degree field of vision and assists in low vision situations.Outside, the Evoque has been given a makeover, with subtle reshaping of the sheetmetal, new slimline LED headlights, new slimline rear lights, and recessed door handles. The glasshouse is slimmer yet not compromising when it comes to all-round vision. The revamped exterior has a match inside, with upgraded trim and redesigned dash for better ergonomics. The twin touchscreen and capacitive switches of the Touch Pro Duo infotainment system are the focal point of the interior environment. Wireless of over-the-air software updates will ensure Evoque is always at the forefront of technology for the driving systems.There is a new wheelbase for the Evoque to roll on. That’s yielded extra legroom and a small but usable increase in centre console storage space. The redesign has created extra luggage space, now up to 591L, with a wider entrance allowing easier loading and removal of cargo. Drop the rear seats and cargo goes up to 1383L. Foot room has also been improved, thanks to revised seat mount positioning.The chassis has been engineered to accept a hybrid drive. A 48-volt mild-hybrid available at launch and a plug-in hybrid model offered around 12 months afterwards. The mild hybrid works on energy recovery and kicks in when the car is accelerating. This powertrain will be available with the new Ingenium diesels and the 221kW/400Nm petrol four. A PHEV or Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle is currently slated for late 2019.

Being part of the Range Rover family means off roading is a natural. Wading depth is up to 600mm and with Terrain Response 2, the all wheel drive system will automatically sense the surface the Evoque is driving on and adapt automatically. Massive 21 inch wheels will provide a huge footprint.This smart theme continues with Smart Settings; it’s a learning system, effectively a butler wearing an AI suit. Items such as the driving position,  music choices, and climate control settings. Even seat massage settings will be learned by the Smart Settings as will the position of the steering column.

The release date for the Australian market is yet to be confirmed.

 

Private Fleet Car Review: 2019 Subaru Forester Premium

Subaru’s Forester is now up to its fourth generation and still manages to be a small to medium SUV that has the uncanny knack of not looking like a small to medium SUV. With a powertrain that is now exclusively a 2.5L petrol fed engine and Constantly Variable Transmission, spread over a four trim level range, the 2019 Forester starts at $33,490 plus on road costs for the 2.5i. The Premium tested is $38,490 plus on roads (Subaru is doing a driveaway price of $43,300 at the time of writing) and it’s shaping up to be a hidden bargain in a crowded landscape full of SUVs. The 2019 range has been given an extensive makeover inside and out, with even the engine 90% new. A Wheel Thing drives the new for 2019 Subaru Forester Premium.Subaru has loaded the Forester range with a good list of standard equipment across the range, and the Premium really lacks for little in this area. There are the standard electronic drivers aids, a few acronyms such as AVH, and a surprisingly possibly useful feature for those that do long country drives. By the way, AVH is Auto Vehicle Hold.

Power comes from a 2.5L petrol, as mentioned, as Subaru has dropped the diesel. However there are no current plans for a hybrid system. 136kW and 239Nm are the numbers for power and torque, with the rev points being 5800rpm and 4400rpm. The CVT from Subaru is one of the better sorted versions found and rarely did it feel out of sorts. A gentle throttle has the Premium moving away quietly and confidently. There’s then a more traditional auto feel as the CVT moves its way through the seven programmed rations, which are available for manual shifting via the gear selector or column paddles.Heavier pressure on the alloy pedal send a signal through the fly by wire throttle and the Premium responds accordingly. There is a more typical CVT whir up the rev range, getting to around 3500rpm before settling momentarily. As the foot lifts or the sensors read that speed is where it needs to be, the revs drop off. The only time the CVT seems a bit off is coming up to a stop and throttle feedback seems to raise a shudder on the downshifts. It also gets uncertain, when cold, shifting between Park and Reverse, Park and Drive, or Reverse and Drive. In pretty much all driving situations otherwise, the combination of quietly throbbing 2.5L boxer four and a truly fine CVT does the job.

Economy for the Premium is rated as 9.3L/6.3L/7.4L (urban, highway, combined) from a 63L tank for every 100 kilometres covered. These are real world achievable figures and the Forester Premium didn’t disappoint. Taken on a sojourn from the Blue Mountains to Bega, on the south coast of NSW, and return, the Premium achieved 6.9L/100km. This was done over 1100 kilometres and with a four human passenger, one canine passenger, and cargo load. Considering this takes the 1546kg (dry) machine to over 1800kg, it’s a better than decent figure.The cargo section itself in the Premium is a minimum of 498L, and this goes to 1768L. Access is via a powered tail gate with height memory function and Subaru have relocated the light to the roof. There are shopping hooks and a 12V socket here also. The loading bay is at an easy to lift and load height. The doors are wide opening for easy access and the front seats are powered, plus a two position memory for the driver is here. Rolling stock for the Premium are 18 inch alloys with Bridgestone 225/55 Dueler rubber.What isn’t immediately noticeable is the physical change to the Forester.Although looking virtually the same as the preceding style, there’s been growth in all dimensions, from height, width, length, to interior measurements. The headroom for the passengers genuinely feels overdone, with close to what feels like twenty centimetres of headroom. The cargo capacity, for example, has jumped by 78L. The floor width has gone 58mm wider, nearly an inch taller at 22mm, and the opening width has gone up by a massive 134mm to 1300mm. Up front Subaru’s designers have continued the “C” LED look, with splashes of chrome for the lower corner globe driving lights. The rear goes Euro too, with the tail light cluster also a strong “C” motif.Inside the Premium it’s almost business as usual with the triple LCD screens and the huge amount of information available. It’s a look that echoes the Europeans, with a sweeping arch that starts and ends in the upper door plastics. the trim in the Premium is classy, with a mix of smooth and rippled plastics, and the seats are cloth with leather bolsters. No heating or venting, though.The driver has the small screen in full colour, with variable info accessed via tabs on the lower left quarter of the tiller, whilst the eight inch touchscreen features Subaru’s StarLink setup. Apps such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard as is satnav in the Premium. Above that is the smaller screen that show information such as average and on the fly fuel economy, car angle relative to the horizontal and it’s in a casing that hides a nifty little feature.It’s almost invisible but look carefully and a small red rectangle can be espied. It houses an infra-red scanner that reads the driver’s eyes, and will flash a message on the screen if the driver appears to be looking away from forward for too long. It’s an extra safety feature that is intended to monitor for fatigue or inattention, and the scanning feature works very well.  It also provides an extra  feature as it has a facial recognition basis, meaning that a little bit of personalisation can be added, as Subaru provides a Welcome (insert name) on the screen.There are plenty of other safety features in the Premium, such as Subaru’s much vaunted EyeSight camera setup. This provides an excellent stereoscopic forward view and goes hand in hand with the Forward Collision Warning, Adaptive Cruise Control, and the very handy Lead Vehicle Start Alert. Naturally Autonomous Emergency Braking is standard too and comes with Pedestrian Detection. Tyre Pressure Monitoring, DAB radio, and Subaru’s X-Mode drive selector finish off the list of features.

Here’s another acronym. SRH. Steering Responsive Headlights is what that one stands for and that’s self explanatory. It really isn’t until you’ve driven a car at night with this feature that you realise just how handy it is. The car itself looks similar yet different to the previous model. Along with the subtle increases in size, the nose itself is taller, bluffer, more upright. The Forester is like the Outback in one key area as well. Subaru’s design team build in a station wagon look yet it really is as big as other SUVs in its class such as Nissan’s X-Trail.This was important on the drive to Bega and back. With two in the back utilising the pair of USB ports, a few towels down for the pooch, and the cargo area reasonably full, the extra space becomes welcomed. And it’s a fair handler too on the long, sweeping, turns of the Monaro and Snowy Mountain Highways. The steering weights up progressively, with the long and gentle turns needing only miniscule corrective input.

Come into the tighter, closer together, corners just west of Bega after the magnificence that is Brown Mountain, and the ratio in the steering means just a little extra work is required. It’s communicative and subtle in its method. The suspension is well balanced in how it damps down on these roads too. There are some sections where it’s like riding over a gentle swell again and again, and the Premium simply dispatches these to the boundary like Bradman did in his heyday.

Drive into the turns that populate Brown Mountain, around a half hour or so west of Bega, and the Forester’s handling gets tested and found wanting for little. It’s a ten kilometre stretch of road and drops something like eight hundred metres as you drive east. The turns measured at 25 to 30 km/h simply don’t faze the the Premium; there’s  a gentle dab of the brakes, a turn, a squirt of the go-pedal, and the Premium eats the road up.

At The End Of The Drive.
Subaru’s dedication to their all wheel drive platform and boxer engine make them unique in the world’s automotive family. They’re still a niche player but it’s become a bloody big niche judging by the number of Foresters seen during the review period.What really wins here is the sheer value of the Premium. Although there is a trim level above, it’s perhaps worth considering what the differences are here. The 2019 Subaru Forester Premium is an impressive car and continues to make Subaru’s once quirky niche presence bigger and bigger.

Car Review: 2019 Kia Sportage SLi Petrol & GT-Line Diesel

Kia updated their Sportage range in mid 2018 and although mainly cosmetic in nature, it keeps the range fresh. The new for 2019 Kia Sportage SLi with petrol and the diesel fueled 2019 Kia Sportage GT-Line graced the driveway for a week each and both showed why they are ideally suited for their respective target markets.The GT-Line is listed at $48,210 plus on roads, the SLi at $37,310. There is a very well specified equipment list for both, including Autonomous Emergency Braking and Lane Keep Assist now standard across the range, and a suite of GPS linked voice alerts for speed cameras, narrow roads, schools, and more. Apart from the different energy sources there are two different transmissions. Kia has kept the six speed auto for the petrol with its higher rev points for power and torque, The diesel has a new eight speed, and It’s a cracker. The 2.0L diesel has 400Nm of torque and the eight ratios are well spread to take advantage of the power and torque delivery. Torque is on tap from idle with that peak available from 1750 to 2750 rev. Peak power is 136kW and that’s at 4000rpm. The SLi is a front wheel driven unit, the GT-Line an all wheel drive setup and comes with a centre diff lock for soft-roading.The Sportage is a four model range, being Si, Si Premium, SLi, and GT-Line. The first three have a choice of 2.0L petrol engine or 2.0L diesel. The GT-Line is 2.4L petrol or 2.0L diesel. The 2.0L is a nice enough performer, with 114kW and 192Nm. This comes standard with the six speed auto. The petrol is a free revving unit and its own power and torque curve has the six speed auto running slick and smooth. Power for the 2.4L petrol is virtually identical to the diesel at 135kW however that’s at 6000rpm. Torque, naturally is a lesser peak figure and higher up the rev range, with 237Nm at 4000rpm. Kia quotes 7.9L/100km for the 2.0L, 8.5L/100km for the 2.4L, and 6.4L/100km in the diesel. The SLi finished on 8.3L/100km and the diesel finishing on 7.1L/100km, with both results from a 98% urban run. All models have a 62L tank.Driving the diesel and the new auto sees a new level of refinement from Kia. There is a distinct lack of the agricultural sound, a real feeling of smoothness, and a wave upon wave surge of torque from the engine. Cogs swap swiftly, quietly, and smartly, with the throttle sensor responding instantly to both pedal movement and information from the drive system itself. Kia has stayed with the three mode drive choice which, for both, is superfluous. From a standing start the diesel pulls the 1700kg machine away with minimal effort and minimal noise. Although front drive biased, there’s a noticeable shift of torque to the rear when the go pedal is punched. The result is rocketship acceleration, with a flicker of the needle on the tacho at around 3200 revs for the change. The extra two cogs over the six add so much extra flexibility and helps get the GT-Line to 100kph rapidly. Stopping power comes from 305mm and 302mm discs.Inside the SLi the petrol’s sound is a distant thrum, barely audible, and feels smoother than silk on ice. From a standing start it’s quiet and sometimes so inaudible there’s a glance at the tacho to ensure it’s actually spinning. Punched hard enough there’s a chirp from the front, but otherwise it’s a friendly, forgiving, machine to drive, Steering on both is a delight, with a beautiful balance and heft on the pair. There’s the barest hint of torque steer from the diesel and only under load in corners.Suspension on both is tuned to suit the audience. The SLi and GT-Line share McPherson struts and a multi-link rear, but the dampers are slightly softer on the GT-Line. Rubber is different at 225/55/18s for the SLi, 245/45/19s on the GT-Line. That extra width on the GT-Line provides a more sure footed and tenacious feel on road too. Not that the SLi is any slouch. It’s a fun car to drive too. Hit it up into a tight corner and speed and it’s flat, composed, almost begging to see more numbers on the speedo as it dares the driver. Both settle even more with a week’s worth of shopping in the 466L cargo space. That increases to 1455L if the superbly comfortable pews are lowered.

There’s a modicum of extra space inside the Sportage, with an increase of wheelbase and overall length. Wheelbase is up, from 2640mm to 2670mm. Length grows by 45mm, to 4485mm but that includes a front overhang increase of 20mm to 905mm and a rear overhang decrease of 10mm to 910mm. Overall internal measurements have headroom up by 5mm to 997mm and 993mm from 977mm front and rear. Front legroom has grown by 19mm to 1129mm, and 7mm to 970mm in the rear.

There are few changes to the exterior, the driving lights in the lower corners of the front bumper now have a horizontal line spanning the insert, and in the case of the GT-Line, splits the LED cluster. The headlight surround in the GT-Line also looks slimmer but that may be down to the LED lights and indicators. The rear of the GT-Line has LED lights, and a powered tailgate, with the tail light cluster on all models freshened up whilst adding extra visibility for safety.

There is ample leg, shoulder, and head room in the Sportage, even with the full length glass roof as fitted in the Fiery Red painted GT-Line. There are the standard pair of 12V sockets up front plus a USB. The GT-Line adds a wireless charging point for compatible smartphones and a 12V & USB socket for the rear seat passengers. The front windows in each are one touch.Equipment wise there’s little between the two. Or all four, for that matter.Consider this: standard across the range is Autonomous Emergency Braking, Lane Keep Assist, Downhill Brake Control, Hill-start Assist Control, Reverse sensors, and rear camera with guidelines. The Si dips out on front sensors, and only the GT-Line gets Intelligent Parking Assist System. Specific to the GT-Line is Blind Spot Detection/Lane Change Assist/Rear Cross Traffic Alert, which complement the Advanced Smart Cruise Control. All four have High Beam Assist, dusk sensing headlights, 2 ISOFIX seat mounts, and six airbags.

Comfort comes with heated and vented front seats for the GT-Line, ten way adjustable seats in both the SLi and GT-Line, an eight inch touchscreen with DAB audio, JBL speakers, Bluetooth, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay. The latter two have voice recognition to boot. All four models have dual zone aircon systems with Kia’s proprietary CleanAir Module. Trim is soft touch plastics, with an alloy look to door and dash inserts. The SLi and GT-Line also receive a 4.5 inch full colour binnacle display.Kia continues to offer its seven year warranty and capped price service. The diesel is marginally more pricy per year for servicing, with the full price over the seven years at $3580 against $2742 for the SLi’s petrol. Premium paint is a $520 option.

At The End of The Drive.
Kia’s growth in the Australian market continues to go from strength to strength on the back of the Stinger, Sorento, and Sportage. the Cerato sedan is due to be joined by a revamped hatch soon, and the recent news of turbo engines for that overseas, and for the Picanto and Rio will add extra spice to the range. In the case of the diesel GT-Line, it’ll happily be welcomed back at any time. They’re both family friendly,, roomy and comfy, and pack plenty of tech. The SLi , perhaps, should have the 2.4L as an option or even as standard, to bring it closer to the GT-Line and separate it just that bit more from the Si pairing. Either way, both are immensely good value but for the win it’s the 2019 Kia Sportage GT-Line diesel.

 

Private Fleet Car Review: 2018 Holden Trailblazer LTZ

Holden‘s 4WD ute and people mover range has had a chequered history, with the latest incarnation of a ute based people mover now known as the Trailblazer. Once known as the Colorado 7, it’s a curious choice as the front end looks like the current Colorado, the interior looks like the Colorado’s, and the profile is effectively unchanged. Perhaps to separate the two lines more effectively? The Trailblazer comes in seven colours, two and four wheel drive, three trim levels (LT, LTZ, Z71), and seats seven in relative comfort.The Trailblazer LTZ, at the time of writing, is $53,990 driveaway. Premium paint is a $550 option. There’s plenty of standard kit to come with that price, too like auto headlights front fog lights, and powered folding mirrors . Sound wise there is a DAB tuner, and smartphone connectivity via both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Holden’s MyLink is a user friendly interface on the eight inch screen. Safety is delivered in the shape of Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Alert, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert are standard on the LTZ. No Autonomous Emergency Braking though. The range also gets seven airbags including the driver’s knee ‘bag. With towing of up to 3,000 kilograms available having Trailer Sway Warning is standard too. However the large tailgate is not a powered version and that’s an item found on cars of similar or lesser value. But there is Remote Engine Start for those that like to pre-cool or pre-warm the interior.The front pews are covered in machine made leather and are heated, not vented, again an oversight for Australia’s climate. The driver’s seat is powered but really only adjustable for height and fore/aft. The dash itself is squared off and lacks in visual appeal. A flat fascia, rather than the Euro style wrap around that even the new Forester has adopted leave the Trailblazer’s design well behind. A bright spot is the vibrant and easy to use touchscreen. It responds rapidly to touch, has a sensible layout, and the DAB tuner is sensitive enough but the speakers lack real depth, with a lack of soundstage quite noticeable.A mix of dark and light greys and a lustreless alloy look trim around the gear selector and centre vents just don’t pull in the eyeballs. The front seats can see a 12V and USB socket, with the middle row getting just the single 12V. The rear seat passengers have access to cup holders on both sides and in the centre. There is a 12V socket on the left side and there is rear seat aircon as well, with roof vents and a switch in the front centre console for On/Off. The driver’s dash and switchgear are familiar GM in look, feel, and operation, with the multi-function tiller itself sporting simple to use buttons for audio and cruise control.Leg room up front is plentiful at 1045mm, as is the mid row seats, thanks to the 2845mm wheelbase. Use all seven seats and cargo space is a relatively small 205L. Use it in the more likely five seater mode and there is 878L in total. With all seats down there is up to 1830L to use. The seat are adequate for most people in size, shape, and support. The squab or the bumrest, seemed a little lacking in support for the thigh towards the front of the seat but a compromise of seat position and angle was sufficient to deal with it.Power and torque are courtesy of a 147kW/500Nm diesel of 2.8-L in capacity. Economy came in at 8.6L from the 76-L tank for every 100 suburban kilometres driven. The diesel is more agricultural sounding than others under load but off throttle it’s quiet enough. That 500Nm is rated at being available between 2000 to 2200 rpm but there is oodles on tap both below and above that up to around 3200rpm.Standard transmission is a six speed auto which means that Holden is behind the market here by not offering an eight or nine ratio ‘box. The four wheel drive models have a “shift on the fly” selection choice which is available via a centre console dial. With 500 Nm to play with a transmission able to really utilise that amount of torque would be better and just six cogs isn’t enough. Having a kerb weight of just on 2200kg matters too. The six speeder is a slick unit being mostly smooth in its changes, will hold gear nicely on downhill runs, and when the accelerator is punched it’s boom boom boom through the ratios. An eight or nine speed auto though would offer a better spread of ratios, making the Trailblazer more driveable overall, and potentially contribute to an even lower consumption figure.On road behaviour is refined enough given its ostensibly ute based origins. The LTZ tested has meaty rubber from Bridgestone at 265/60/18 and on tarmac they provide plenty of grip. It’s a coil sprung front, with a double wishbone design. The rear is a five link “live” or non-independent setup. It has the effect of the Trailblazer feeling noticeably but not unpleasantly tauter than the front. It feels a tad soft at the top of the suspension travel, which given its off-road ability is understandable. With 28 and 25 degree approach and departure angles, it provides a chance for most average drivers the ability to trial the high and low range transmission ability.

Steering on tarmac is not as tight as expected, with a slightly rubbery feel on the straight. Off centre it loads up quite well but never feels as if winding it on actually has the nose just where it feels it should be pointing. On gravel the suspension allows a little more communication to be fed through.

The brakes themselves also lack enough bite to suit the mass and payload. Coming up to red lights or stop signs, it felt as if the Trailblazer wasn’t being hauled up as rapidly and confidently as it possibly could do.The exterior design is not up to the visual appeal that a Santa Fe or Sorento offers. Ford’s Everest is also a better looker, for that matter. The profile is a standard three box design and is somewhat more squared off than the immediate competition in profile. Up front is the sharper looking nose design with plenty in common with the Colorado, with a more integrated grille and LED driving light design. The rear of the Trailblazer has the D pillar forward of the tail gate, with the window almost superfluous as a result.Holden now offers a five year warranty and that’s backed by fixed price servicing & 24/7 roadside assist.

At The End Of The Drive.
With the release by Holden of the petrol only Acadia, a stand alone, non ute based seven seater, Holden can offer a choice of bigger people movers. The Acadia is a US sourced machine, and being petrol only hands the economic advantage to the Trailblazer. Having said that, the 2018 Holden Trailblazer LTZ feels old and tired already, in looks, feel, and driveability. It’ll do the job but against Hyundai and Kia, then Audi, Volvo, and the like, it suffers straight away. Make up your own mind by booking a test drive here

BMW Goes X-tra Large and Seven Up

BMW is not a brand that does things by halves. Rather than putting a toe in the water, the iconic German brand jumps in. In the passenger vehicle segment it’s “lacked” one entrant and that has now been resolved with the release of the X7 range. It’ll go up against the Volvo XC90, Audi’s Q7, Porsche’s Cayenne, and VW’s Touareg. BMW also don’t tag this 5151mm long machine as an SUV. It’s a SAV, a Sports Activity Vehicle.The X7 will offer a choice of six or seven seats, with the third row a confirmed two seat configuration. That third row will have cup holders, separate USB points, and armrests. The middle row can be specified with two or three seats, and all seats are power adjustable. Sitting on a wheelbase of 3105mm, the X7 offers a cargo capacity variance of between 326L to 2120L. To take advantage of the space available, the X7 goes on a luxury cruise with Vernasca leather as standard, four zone climate control, a three part panoramic roof, and a high end ambient light system. BMW never skimps on the option list either, with a five zone climate control system, a Bowers and Wilkins Diamond Select audio system, an an entertainment system for the rear seat passengers. BMW’s M Sport package and the Design Pure Excellence equipment line are also offered.Choosing an engine won’t be hard. At launch a a 340 kW/462 hp petrol V8 in the BMW X7 xDrive50i will be available although not available in Europe. The xDrive40i will receive a six-cylinder in-line petrol unit with an output of 250 kW/340 hp and a rated combined fuel consumption at 9.0 – 8.7 l/100 km. The X7 xDrive 30d will be powered by a pair of six-cylinder in-line diesels with outputs of 195 kW/265 hp. Fuel consumption for a combined cycle is rated at 6.8 – 6.5 l/100 km with CO2 emissions combined: 178 – 171 g/km) and 294 kW/400 hp in the BMW X7 M50d. The quoted fuel consumption on the combined cycle is 7.4 – 7.0 l/100 km with CO2 emissions combined: 193 – 185 g/km). All of the power units in the line-up meet the requirements of the Euro 6d-TEMP emissions standard.

Every powerplant will be bolted to an eight-speed Steptronic transmission. The BMW xDrive intelligent all wheel drive system, complete with optimised efficiency and rear-biased set-up, is how the power and torque gets to tarmac or dirt. Ensuring even more dynamic handling is the M Sport differential at the rear axle, which brings electronically controlled locking. It is fitted as standard on the BMW X7 M50d and as an option on the BMW X7 xDrive50i and BMW X7 xDrive40i.The chassis tech is typical high end BMW. There’s Adaptive Suspension and electronically controlled dampers, air fed springs and an adjustable ride height of up to 80mm. Extra suspension ability can be optioned, such as Integral Active Steering, and the Executive Drive Pro system. An off road option package can be specced for all models bar the M50D. A four mode drive system includes xSands, xGravel, xRocks, and xSnow. The selection of each mode has the X7 adjust automatically for ride height, transmission response, and the stability control systems.

Active Cruise Control with Stop/Start is standard however BMW offers the Driving Assistant Professional package that features steering and lane control assistance, Lane Change Warning and Lance Departure Assistance, and even a side collision warning system. Traffic assistance comes in the form of wrong way alert, cross traffic warning and BMW’s priority warning system.

The driver has two 12.3 inch full colour digital screens with which to work with. There’s a binnacle display and a control display in the centre upper dash with the pair being called by BMW the Live Cockpit Professional system. An Intelligent Personal Assistant is voice activated and software can be updated remotely.

Finally, BMW stamp their authority on the luxury SAV segment with an imposing exterior design. With a width of 2000m and a height of 1805mm, the X& is one of the bigger types of its segment. The traditional kidney grille design is even more imposing and is flanked by a pair of full LED lit headlights. Optionable Laserlight headlights can illuminate at a range of up to 600 metres on high beam. A two section tailgate is flanked by stylish LED powered lights.

Contact your local BMW dealer for more information.

Holden’s New Big Acadia Arrives

Holden has released details about their new, fully North American built, large SUV. The Acadia is a dedicated seven seater and is powered by a 231kW/367Nm 3.6L V6. There will be no skimping on safety features either, with the Acadia featuring: Autonomous Emergency Braking with pedestrian and bicycle detection, Following Distance Indicator, Automatic High Beam Assist, Safety Seat Alert, Forward Collision Alert with Head-Up Warning, Lateral Impact Avoidance, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, Side Blind Zone Alert with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and Rear Parking Assist.TSR or Traffic Sign Recognition is a new feature. Holden says they have had an engineering team perform tests within tens of thousands of kilonetres worth of testing. This has enabled the TSR system to be sophisticated enough to recognise the variance in signs throughout Australia, which also highlights the lack of commonality in signage across the country.

There will be Holden’s next generation eight inch touchscreen plus, for all three rows of seats, fast charging USB ports, suitable for the current generation of smartphones and tablets. There’s some smart tech on board and aimed at people that will utilise the Acadia’s 2000kg towing ability. Hitch Guidance and Hitch View allows a driver to line up the Acadia using the reverse camera, plus there’s a program for the nine speed automatic transmission called Tow Haul. This changes the shifting characteristics of the shift patterns whilst driving and towing.Inside the Acadia will be clever storage solutions such as adjustable fore and aft position for the middle row, a console drawer for the second row, a storage bin in the rear, and just in case the parents have a brain fade, an alert system for the rear seats.The V6 is rated at a reasonable 8.9L/100km on a two wheel drive system, and increases barely to 9.3L/100km in four wheel drive. Thankfully it’ll run on standard unleaded, a handy thing with the expansion of Australia’s fuel prices. That’s helped by Stop/Start and AFM or Active Fuel Management as standard.

Suspension is the tried and true McPherson strut front and the five link rear end, tuned and fettled by Holden in testing on roads and at the Lang Lang grounds.

Pricing starts from $42,990 plus on-roads with the Acadia LT 2WD. the AWD LT clocks in at $46,990 plus on-roads. Move up to the LTZ 2WD and there’s $53,990 plus on-roads or $57,990 plus on-roads for the LTZ AWD. The top of the range LTZ-V 2WD is $63,990 and hits the ceiling at $67,990 for the AWD, again with on-roads to be added.Here is where you can find out more and book a test drive.

Private Fleet Car Review: 2019 Toyota Kluger Grande and GXL.

In a previous life, I attended the Perth launch of a newcomer to the Toyota family. Called Kluger, it was a squarish, slightly blocky, petrol only, mid-sized SUV. Fifteen plus years later the Kluger remains petrol only, still has a squarish and blocky design, and not far off in size of the Land Cruiser. AWT spent a week with the top of the range Grande and mid-level GXL, with the Grande seeing the countryside whilst the GXL did what it’s designed for. The urban lifestyle run. There’s a big price difference though, with the GXL in the mid $50K range and a huge $10K less than the Grande.The standard engine is a 3.5L V6, producing 218kW, and a surprising 350 torques. Surprising because, in context, it’s the same amount as that produced by a turbo-charged 2.0L petrol engine. As a result, urban fuel economy is less that inviting, with the GXL not seeing a figure below 11.0L per 100km at any stage. The Grande is a different story; the dash display didn’t appear to show a consumption figure however we managed a reasonable half tank from the lower Blue Mountains to Cooma. This consumption stayed consistent from Cooma to Bega, back to Cooma, and then Sydney.Sole transmission option is an eight speed auto. In the GXL this drives the front wheels and the Grande is an AWD system, driving the fronts but splits torque rearward on demand. The driver’s dash screen shows this in a graphic, and it’s kinda interesting to watch from the eye’s corner when starting forward, be it a hard or soft launch. The Grande suffers in comparison to the GXL in this area. When punched the GXL will move with a decent measure of alacrity and will chirp the front tyres. The GXL around town also has a slightly better ride, with a more supple appeal thanks to the slightly higher sidewalls. The Grande is sluggish off the line, with a feeling of needing more effort to have both front and rear wheels gripping. The eight speed auto in both is…..adequate, to be polite. Cold they were indecisive off the line, and when warmed up were somewhat archaic in their change feel. Think the early four or five speed autos when one cog was finished and there was a yawning gap until the next one engaged. An exaggeration of sorts, yes, but needed to paint the picture.The weapon of choice for the six hour country drive was the Grande over the Holden Calais Tourer. According to the junior team members of the review team it was the roof mounted blu-ray player (complete with SD card input) that won the contest. There are four wireless headphones and they sound fantastic. The screen itself, naturally, isn’t blu-ray quality but the fact Toyota offers that kind of playback is a bonus. Having rear aircon and the controls at the rear of the centre console is also a bonus as the controls are both fan speed and temperature independent of the front seats. The middle seat rows are tilt and fold which allows access to the simple pull-strap operated third row seats. Or one could enter via the power operated tailgate. The Grande has an extra family friendly feature for those that use wireless charging smartphones too. Adding to the family persuasion is a plethora of cup and bottle holders throughout the cabin plus a DAB or digital audio broadcast tuner. The latter had an oddity in that it would pick up signal in areas some other cars don’t but when it lost signal it was almost painfully slow to regain it.

Actual fit and finish in the Klugers is starting to lack visual appeal. The dash design is somewhat chaotic with blocks rather than an organic look. Somehow, after a while, it seems to work. Of note is the centre of driver’s binnacle info screen. In typical Toyota fashion it’s initially a little confusing to look at, but once a few flicks of the tabs on the tiller have been performed, the info such as which safety aids are being used or how much traction is being apportioned, becomes easily accessible instinctively. Powered seats make finding the right seating position to read the screen easy, and in the Grande they’re both heated and vented via a pair of utterly simple to use roller dials. They’re coloured red and blue left and right of the centre point and have three settings to choose from. The GXL ditches the venting and goes to slightly less attractive roller dials to activate the heating side.The actual driving position is comfortable in the seats but the tiller felt a bit narrow to the fingers. All round view is very good and with broad side mirrors the Blind Spot Alert system was almost not needed. Almost. On the highway heading east from Cooma to Bega, some of the roads narrow and there are opportunities for a lack of safety of this form to lead to issues thanks to drivers that believe themselves to be better than they are. Suffice to say the Blind Sport Alert system can be a life saver. Safety wise there’s really not a lot between the Grande and GXL, with Toyota‘s Safety Sense. Pedestrian friendly collision warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and Lane Departure Alert, and seven airbags are aboard.The Grande turned out to be a decent country tourer. Under way and at cruising speed, it ticks over at the freeway speed at close to 2,000rpm. Toyo supplies the (specially supplied for Kluger Grande) Open Country 245/55/19 rubber on the Grande and Michelin the 245/60/18s for the GXL. Both exhibit a sometimes uncomfortable measure of road noise, especially on the coarser chip surfaces south of Canberra. The dearth of torque at low revs was always apparent though. That peak amount is at 4700rpm, and it was enough at times to feel the gearbox move to seventh to eighth to seventh in order to try and utilise what was available. It was also noticeable when uphill runs or an overtake were required, with a steady drop through the ratios. On the road the steering was never comfortable though, with a somewhat numb on-centre feel and with more weight than expected. However it doesn’t tax the body and with a stop every two hours or so, a driver can exit the car feeling a bare minimum of driving fatigue.The exterior design is also starting to look out of date in comparison to both Toyota’s own design ethos and in respect to the opposition. It’s still a squarish, angular look, which at least matches the dash. The front features an inverted triangular motif and isn’t overly chromed. Eagle-eye headlights with LED driving lights balance a similar look at the rear. Alongside the latest from Korea the Klugers look heavy, tired, and nowhere as slippery.The Klugers also come with just a three year or 100,000 kilometre warranty, another area that other companies are rapidly changing. Roadside assistance is a 24/7 owner service, however.

At The End Of The Drive.
Quite simply the Toyota Kluger GXL is the better value bet. There really is simply not enough between the Grande and GXL to justify the extra ten thousand, blu-ray and all wheel drive system included. Neither will see any dirt action apart from the front lawn either. The styling is fading, inside and out, however it’s fair to presume, having seen the new Camry and Corolla, that a redesign is on the boards at Toyota HQ.

Having no diesel option, unlike the Sorento or Santa Fe, leaves people looking at the HiLux or Fortuner, Toyota’s almost invisible machine. Or there are Mitsubishi’s Pajero Sport, Holden’s Trailblazer, Ford’s Everest, to consider, or offerings from Volvo, Audi, VW…Take it for a test drive yourself and check out the range here

Mercedes-Benz EQC Unveiled and Mitsubishi ASX Updates.

It’d be fair to say that Tesla has been seen as an innovator when it comes to the fully battery powered car. Their Model X is a beautiful example of practicality, being a large and roomy people mover, with no challengers. Until now. Mercedes-Benz, an originator of the electric car, first put forward a concept of a people mover powered by electricity at the Paris Motor Show. That concept has now been released as a working version under a new branding, EQ. Known as the EQC, this SUV styled machine is powered by a pair of motors, one each for the front and rear combining to produce 300kW. Consumption is rated at 22.2 kiloWatt hours per 100 kilometres driven.Peak torque is quoted as 765Nm, and top speed is limited to 180km/h. Range is said to be 450 kilometres which of course will depend on driving conditions. It’ll be a hefty beast though, with a kerb weight of 2425 kilos for the 4761mm long machine. Gross Vehicle Mass for the 1884mm (sans mirrors) wide and 1624mm high EQC is 2930 kilos, with the battery pack making up 650 kilograms of that. However there’s enough oomph to get the EQC to 100km/h in a breath over five seconds.

Charging is courtesy of an on-board charger that is capable of delivering 7.4kW, making it AC home charging compatible. Using a M-B supplied “Wallbox” increases that by up to three times, with up to 110kW, and in forty minutes from nearly empty up to eighty percent.Styling is a mix of standard high riding SUV, a sloping rear roofline to add a bit of coupe, and a standout front panel in black. This encloses the headlights and a grille like structure. There’s an LED strip that borders the top of the panel that draws a line between the headlights. Design highlights inside have a ribbed edge to the instrument panel that resembles the heat exchange vanes from a music amplifier. Mercedes-Benz have ensured that the EQC will feel like a driver’s car by designing a cockpit-like feel to the cabin. Charging information can be found via the MBUX, or the Mercedes Benz User Experience. Charging current and switch off times can also be set here. MBUX will have its own tile on the screen to access EQ functions.

One of those is a form of pre-journey climate control, where the system can be activated to a certain present temperature before the vehicle is called into use for a drive. The satnav system will constantly calculate the best route based on charge time and usage plus aid in finding the best charging station on a distance basis. Pricing and release dates are yet to be confirmed.Another SUV is on its way however this is an update from an established vehicle. Mitsubishi‘s ASX has been given a freshen up and a surprising decision embedded in the update. There will be no diesels in the three model range, with a 2.0L petrol fed power plant as standard instead. Another surprising change is the move away from an AWD option to a purely front wheel driven system. Only one option will have a manual and that’s the entry level ASX ES at $23,490 RRP and a CVT equipped version at $25,490 RRP. The ES can also be specced with the ADAS option.Blind Spot Warning (BSW), Lane Change Assist (LCA) and Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), Lane Departure Warning (LDW) and Forward Collision Mitigation (FCM), along with reversing sensors, dusk sensing headlamps and rain sensing wipers. Exterior features include front fog lamps and door mirrors with side turn lamps. The ASX ES optioned with Advanced Driver Assist Systems (ADAS) will have a recommended retail pricing of $26,990. The LS is $27,990 RRP with the top level Exceed well priced at just $30,990 RRP.

All vehicles will have DAB audio, seven airbags, smartphone compatibility, a minimum of two USB ports, reverse camera, and two ISOFIX child seat mounts. The LS adds Forward Collision Mitigation, two tone alloys, auto high beam, leather accented seats, and auto headlights & wipers. The Exceed takes this list further with heated front seats, six speaker sound system, the ADAS as standard, plus a glass roof.Check with your local Mitsubishi dealer for availability.